Monday, 19 September 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 16 September 2016

From the Head Master

I have just had time to draw breath after a host of events and activities this week at Sexey’s – from Girls’ hockey and rugby practices, the Silver DoE expedition to the Quantocks, Mandarin Club, 6th Form EPQ research trip to the University of Southampton, BSA, TLC, Roald Dahl Day, Y7 Sexey's Bug competition, Glow in the Park at Longleat, Splashdown in Poole (pun not intended), clubs and societies, 6th Form trip to the Royal Shakespeare Company to watch a performance of Marlowe's 'Dr Faustus' and the GCSE Geography trip. Has it really only been 10 days since the start of term? It still feels like summer...

On Tuesday, after the School Chaplain, Mr Kelley, explored the impact of 9/11 on the world some 15 years on with our 6th form, the English department celebrated the centenary of Roald Dahl's birth. A hundred years may have passed since he was born, but it remains impossible to imagine a literary world without characters he created such as Willy Wonka, Matilda, and the BFG. He remains one of the world’s best storytellers and his stories will inspire many a generation to come, much like his quotes. And one stands out in particular for me, which I would like to share with you.  
“I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I'll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else. Kindness - that simple word. To be kind - it covers everything, to my mind. If you're kind that's it.”

Kindness is one of our core values, along with Tolerance and Respect and this quote by Roald Dahl really resonates with me and I hope it does with you and with our students too. How we treat each other speaks volumes about us and not losing sight of these values when times get challenging reflects our character and personality. It’s only our second week back and I can see these values in abundance at Sexey's. We have our Boarders’ Church Service at St Mary’s this Sunday at 11.00am – it would be lovely to see you there. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 09 September 2016

From the Head Master

Welcome back to the start of the new Michaelmas Term and a warm welcome to our new parents whose sons and daughters have joined us this September. I hope my weekly ruminations do not clog up your inboxes and subsequent posts will be shorter, I promise! So where did the summer go? Where indeed did last year go? The first week is almost over and I hope that our students have settled back quickly into normal school routines and that our new members to the school community (students and staff) are beginning to understand how we at Sexey’s work and operate. It is a delight to see our new Year 7 pupils enjoying all that Sexey’s has to offer both in and out of the classroom and I hope their energy and enthusiasm continues long into the term.  It was wonderful to see the Head of School, Max Kaberry (U6) and his peers sit with our new Y7s at lunch today and talk to them about school life – it was like older brothers and sisters guiding their younger siblings. And that’s what Sexey’s is about –  family. It was great to hear the School Hymn being belted out at assembly (I missed it over the summer!) and the Head Boy (Freddie Seymour Y11) and Head Girl (Lucia Elliott Y11) of the Lower School reading with such aplomb about the Olympics in Rio this summer and how Team GB was funded – do talk to them about it over the weekend and the implications for sport in general in the UK. I am now glued to the Paralympics in Rio…

As you can imagine, it has been a busy week for our students and staff – Leadership Training for our Sixth Form, meeting new students as well as new staff, girls’ hockey practices, rugby practices, various clubs and societies at lunchtimes and after school, assemblies, prayers, singing practices, learning how to play Squares, the implementation of ‘GCSEPod’ (watch this space), new boarding tutors in all the boarding houses, pre-season rugby training, DoE preparation, Professor Collingridge’s lecture (winner of the Brain Prize 2016) to our students and parents last night on neuroscience, PSA (Parent Staff Association) meeting (more below) and of course, lessons! There is so much going on here and I would like to thank my colleagues for making this happen – I am very lucky indeed to have such a dedicated and committed staff and I wish them well for the exciting year ahead.

We have had a very positive start to the term buoyed by the outstanding exam results the school has achieved at GCSE and A-level over the summer. The excellent performance at A-level (62% A*-B) is testimony to the hard work and effort by our Y13s and their teachers and our results give many of our competitors (independent and state) a good run for their money. Over 80% of our Y13s have now entered university, many of which are Russell Group. The AS results are equally encouraging and bode well for the future and the new Y13s know exactly what they need to do in order to enjoy the same success as their predecessors – academic discipline, commitment and dedication are all necessary attitudes which they are adopting in order to move forward and secure those coveted places in industry or university. Of course, there needs to be a balance, and enjoying life outside the classroom is equally as important and it was wonderful to hear two Y13s after a hard day at school, enthusing about Professor Collingridge’s stimulating lecture.

Not to be outdone, the stunning performance at GCSE by our Year 11s achieving the highest results for a generation are equally impressive. Our results, on all accountability measures including the main Government measure of 5A*-C including English and Maths (83%) by which all schools are compared by, is the best in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall. Our students and staff have worked diligently to achieve these outstanding results and I am delighted for them. In amongst the headlines, there are numerous individual successes, students who have pulled themselves up to, and beyond their fullest potential, and it is just as exciting to see a student who might have expected a C achieving an A as it is to see those who achieve straight A*s or As. Many of our Year 11s have now moved into our Sixth Form and are already knuckling down to the demands of A-level and also look very professional indeed in their smart dress – they are here to work and to lead by example; this can only be good for the school as we carry on moving forward.

Please do take a moment to look at the website which will provide you with a wealth of information and do try and support as many of the events that you can – from concerts to plays, from sporting fixtures to exhibitions. Please book the dates in your diaries and join us when you can - you are all very welcome to these. If there is anything you are not sure about, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at School or with your son’s or daughter’s tutor. We are always here to help. Do also follow us on Twitter (@SexeysSchool) and join in the conversation.

It is great to be back and to see our Sexeians getting stuck into business and I can’t believe that the sun is actually shining.  I do hope that our students have used the holidays to recuperate, relax and reflect and are now ready to take on the many challenges they will face over the coming year. We are here to help them face those challenges, but for now, I wish you and them a pleasant and peaceful weekend. I look forward to another successful year both in and out of the academic arena. If I blink, I might miss it all – I hope not.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 8 July 2016

Our founder, Hugh Sexey would have been proud of last night’s School Production of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew', which was performed with such confidence and energy by our Y7s and 8s. The cast and crew have produced a play which has set the standard for future productions - expectations will be high and the challenge even greater. The quote by Katherine, who was played by the eloquent Leanne Baker, “If I be waspish, best beware my sting” will ring in my ears for many years to come and well done to Jack Fowler-Baxter in the lead role of Petruchio, a difficult part to play but Jack rose to the challenge. Drama continues to excel at Sexey’s under the expert leadership of Mrs Kiddell and with Trinity Guild examinations on offer to our Sexeians and our partnership with the Youth Cinema Foundation, I am confident Drama will go from strength to strength. England’s most popular playwright, Shakespeare was a favourite of both Elizabeth I and James I to whom Hugh Sexey was the Royal Auditor and I think after last night's performance, a new generation of thespians are going to acquaint themselves with the bard. We also sponsored last weekend’s ‘Shakespeare Comes To Lamyatt’, where Hamlet was performed at Speeds Farm by the Festival Players Theatre Company and I know many Sexeians attended and enjoyed this event. Bringing the Bard to life who continues to this day to influence us through his many quotes, which have become part and parcel (is that one?) of our vernacular, ‘The world is my oyster’ to ‘heart of gold’  a national treasure to say the least. Best of luck to our thespians who will be treading the boards this evening – don’t break a leg whatever you do! Get your tickets now if you haven’t done so already. And speaking of taking to the stage, our very own Deliah Ackworth (L6) has successfully auditioned for the highly competitive National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. Do read below her story and how you can help.

It was a real privilege to attend the Somerset Games this week at Millfield School with the PE department and the event was opened by the Olympian marathon runner Mara Yamaguchi who spoke about character and resilience. Our sportsmen and women performed well with the swimmers coming a respectable 7th out of 14 schools and the Y7 Rounders’ team, who have had a tremendous season anyway, crowned champions of Somerset. A tremendous achievement and we wish the track and field athletes the very best today. We also welcomed the next generation of Sexeians this week (our new Y7 Boarders and Day students) for their Transition Day and it was great to see so many parents at the event – our new students had a brilliant time and my thanks go to colleagues and the prefects for making it such an enjoyable experience for them, from the variety of lessons they attended, the dress rehearsal of ‘Taming of the Shrew’, Games and afternoon tea with colleagues . We will be hosting our new Y7 boarders again this weekend when they will be having a sleepover in the boarding houses and will get the opportunity to make new friends, get to know each other, learn more about our boarding houses and most importantly, have fun! Let’s hope the weather is kind to us when we have the New Boarders’ BBQ at the Head Master’s House on Sunday with the Men’s’ Wimbledon Tennis Final in the back ground and later that evening the Euro 2016 Football Final. And let’s not forget the race to become the next British Prime Minister – it will be between two formidable women, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom, We will of course watch this, as Shakespeare would have said ‘with bated breath’.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 1 July 2016

It's been a dramatic time following the EU referendum - a result few saw coming. The resignation of a prime minister. Recrimination and infighting in both of Britain's major political parties; calls for a repeat vote and England's subsequent exit from the European Championships - Brexit, Regrexit and sporting humiliation all in such a short space of time!  And Friday isn't even over yet. It’s been a tumultuous time in politics and I guess we are all trying to make head and tail of what is going on. I wrote last week, will I be writing ‘From the Head Master’ next Friday from a different political landscape. And the answer to that is – I certainly am. I wrote the following to staff last Friday after the decision to leave was announced  and I would like to share this with you today.

After some 40 years, our close and influential relationship with the European Union has come to an abrupt and bitter end with us leaving the EU, an institution that has been part of our cultural fabric for decades, and the resignation of our prime minister. A truly monumental day for the UK to say the least. We are now sailing in uncharted territory with many unknowns which will inadvertently affect our working conditions, pensions, tax, economy, house prices, security and mortgages amongst other things.  It will be a difficult and complex minefield to navigate. Many of you will be disappointed in this morning's outcome to leave the EU; and many of you will also be elated with the outcome. However, it's important we respect the decision of the British people (and that of each other) and come together, putting aside our differences and work together in order to achieve the best for our students, our school and ultimately our country. The values of tolerance, respect and kindness mean so much now. This morning I have been working with the BSA and the DfE to understand the wide-ranging implications of Brexit for our EU students - the vote to leave has brought much consternation amongst many of our state boarding heads; for the time being it is business as usual. Boarders with EU passports will be completely unaffected by the referendum result for at least the next two years. The Boarding Schools Association has already highlighted this issue, and will be pressing for clarity. British education has great international appeal, and we will hope to be able to continue offer this opportunity to EU boarders for many years to come. 

Many of our students, including those from the EU, will not fully understand the implications of leaving the EU, I'm not even sure many of us do either. So they will need plenty of support and guidance to help them come to terms with this decision which has been made against a back drop of divisiveness over the past few weeks from both sides of the political spectrum. We will need to think long and hard about what our British values are and what they stand for. I don't think we quite realise the scale of the political change ahead of us with this historic decision which will permanently change the course of our country. It's the biggest political change that our country will have experienced for the past half century and I hope our leaders are well equipped and prepared to reassure and navigate us through this political storm.

We have spoken to our students this week about the EU referendum result and for us to continue to live by our values and we have continued to educate and provide as many opportunities to our students. This week our U15s played at the Wells Cathedral Cricket tournament where the likes of the MCC, Bryanston and Blundell’s School were being represented and our boys won their match against the Wells U15s, which is a great achievement. Man of the match was Jack Ives who took 5 wickets. The ‘End of Year Art Show’ highlighted all that is outstanding about Sexey’s –  creativity and diversity - and the art that was on display was stunning; I am sure we will give Hauser & Wirth a run for their money! And speaking of running, we have ‘the Race for Life’ around Bruton after school today, so do come down and support our students, staff and friends of the school and give generously to Cancer Research UK.

Today saw our students organise and deliver the Battle of the Somme Commemoration Service that took place this morning – a sombre and emotional occasion where we remembered the soldiers, including those six Old Sexeians, Harold Carver, Ernest Court, John Hodges, Horace Marsh, Harrington Sebright and Frank Withers who studied, lived, and fell together. They gave their lives during the infamous Battle of the Somme, so we can live ours. Moving poems written by our students (Tommy Stewart and Bryan Chow) were delivered with great confidence and aplomb.  It was an emotional event. After a century, the sacrifice of those soldiers is not forgotten. Let us always remember. 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 23 June 2016

The big day has finally arrived  - all the planning, the organising, the advertising, the fund-raising, the cajoling, the implementing – yes, today is the Macmillan Charity Day which took place this afternoon where the school raised vital funds for our partner charity, Macmillan Cancer Support (Douglas Macmillan MBE was an Old Sexeian) and the students had a brilliant time. The school was turned into a village summer fete with the Vicar of Bruton in attendance and traditional fayre games being the order of the day, from skittles and hook the duck to splat the rat and a coconut shy. Lots of money was raised as well as for a Leukaemia Charity (organised by Ryan Aldworth and his year group) and my sincere thanks go to Mrs Frost, the staff and Macmillan Cancer for getting involved and putting on such an excellent fund raising activity – again bringing our school community together to help those in need. It astonishes me how much we do as a school to help those less fortunate than us and it goes to show our values of tolerance, respect and kindness are inherent in all that we do. We said farewell to our Y11s yesterday at an entertaining and emotional Leavers’ Service and BBQ and we wish them well in their future endeavours (some still have exams this week and next) and we look forward to seeing many of them back in our 6th form in September. They have been a mature and talented year group (the Y11 Yearbook is just one example of this) and will be remembered with great fondness and affection.

We have also had considerable success in various sporting fixtures this week with an emphatic win over Taunton School by our U15 cricketers and U14 and U15 tennis at Milton Abbey – students enjoying their sport (when the weather holds up of course!) and developing in confidence and character. Huge congratulations also to Georgia Silcox (L6 Long Jump) and Caitlin Carnegie (Y11 1500m) who won their respective events at last weekend’s County Championships and will now represent the school and Somerset at the National Finals next month. What makes this achievement even more astounding is that this has been achieved with the back drop of public exams and I am so impressed with these two individuals and other students who work hard and play hard. We wish them every success possible. We have had even more success this week with Caroline De La Harpe (Y10) being awarded Silver in the Big Boarding Bake Off at Eton College – a tremendous feat (we were the only state boarding school in the final) and we look forward to tasting some of her creations shortly.  

We have the Glastonbury Exeat over this long weekend and I hope families will enjoy the extended time together, whether that be at the Festival or not, and if indeed you are braving the mud fest, I hope you have a great time. The Glastonbury Festival is part of the fabric of Somerset, part of the county’s DNA and brings so much to the local economy. But more importantly for bringing the performing arts, in all its shapes and sizes, to life. This cultural benefit should not be underestimated and we as a school will continue to support the Festival in any way we can and we wish Michael Eavis (whose grandson attended Sexey’s) and his team the very best this weekend (I do hope the weather is kind!). And speaking of performing, we wish Adam Wagstaff (Y7) all the best as he represents Sexey’s at the Big Boarding Choir this weekend in London. He will certainly be singing for his supper!

I also cannot ignore the significance of today, as today will go down in history. It is so rare that we as a country, as a generation, will have such an important decision to make today - to vote on our future in Europe in this historic referendum. Today's vote will have profound implications, not just for us in the UK but potentially could change the political landscape of a whole continent by breakfast time tomorrow morning. Will I be having toast or croissant with my tea? The planning, organising, advertising and debate over the past four months is now over. It's time to take a deep breath and to pick up that stubby pencil.... 

And by the way, congratulations to all the British and Irish teams for staying in Europe (Euro 2016 football that is!)

Monday, 20 June 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 17 June 2016

Joy and jubilation filled our hearts yesterday, as our national football team remembered how to play the beautiful game against our Welsh neighbours! The school community came together for this rare match which embodied everything about our British values. And before the match the students learnt about the value of sport and its place in society and for me, the most poignant part of this community event was when all the students (Y7 to U6) got up and sang the National Anthem with great pride and gusto, with no prompting at all. At 90 minutes I was getting ready to pour out my lament, recite Dylan Thomas and share recipes of leek pie, but instead we can now head into this wet weekend full of optimism and pride. And speaking of football, two of our talented footballers, Harrison McNairn and William Howarth are at a Tottenham Hotspur training day, perfecting their skills and learning from Premier League coaches – potential England players one day? This weekend, we wish Caitlin Carnegie (1500m Steeplechase) & Georgia Silcox (Long Jump) the very best as they represent Sexey's & Somerset at the South West Schools’ Championships in Exeter; Georgia will also be captaining the Senior Girl’s Somerset Squad – a huge responsibility and testimony to Georgia’s leadership skills. The Y9 boarders arranged a Sexey’s Fashion Show this week and tonight sees the first of our Leavers’ events, the much anticipated 6th Form Ball at the Haynes Motor Museum, where the U6 will bow out gracefully and reminisce about the highs and lows they have had whilst being a part of the Sexey’s family – it will be a wonderful occasion and I look forward to spending time with the next generation of leaders in our community and beyond.

However, yesterday we learnt of the horrific death of Mrs Jo Cox MP who was brutally murdered in her constituency in West Yorkshire whilst carrying out her regular surgeries with the people she represents. She was a compassionate MP dedicated to serving her people and ‘believed in a better world which she fought for every day'. At one point yesterday, we had a community made up of many colours, creeds and faiths coming together celebrating and rejoicing and the next moment we had a community, again of all colours, creeds and faiths coming together to mourn the loss of a loved one. Community is so powerful and we must embrace all that are part of our community. The husband of Mrs Jo Cox has urged people to "fight against the hatred that killed her" in the wake of her death and I hope through education and our values of tolerance, respect and kindness, we will all do this  - to make our communities safer places for us all.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 10 June 2016

For the next five or so weeks the sounds of Europe as well as its many national anthems will be ringing in our ears as the Euro 2016 Football Championships kicks off in France tonight. The EU referendum debates will be hotly contested too, much like the numerous football matches, as the 23rd of June fast approaches. The morning of Friday the 24th could be a very different UK by then as could the US in a few months’ time when the first female presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton takes to the campaign trail. The world is changing every day and we as a school need to adapt to these changes and equip our students with the life skills that they will need to cope with this ever changing world. Our mission statement resonates this - ‘Teaching boys and girls to think intelligently, act wisely and be fully engaged in a challenging and changing world’.

With the untimely passing of the greatest sportsman that has ever lived, Muhammad Ali, sport takes centre stage yet again. It wields a lot of power and influence in bringing people and communities together. It is certainly powerful and this football tournament heralds the start of a glorious summer of sport – with the US Open Golf championships, Test cricket against Sri Lanka, England vs Australia in rugby, the climax of the F1 racing season and Wimbledon just around the corner; it’s going to be a busy time for us arm chair sports enthusiasts and the remote control. This week saw over 50 of our students compete in the Yeovil Athletics championships with many of them surpassing their personal bests and finishing in the top 3, testimony to their hard graft, training and work ethic; something we saw during last term’s very successful Sports Day – thank you again for your support. Sport certainly is powerful and as I hear the preparations being made for the Race for Life event which takes place after school on Friday 1st July and is being organised by one of our Y10 prefects, we are fortunate that we have the opportunity to play, enjoy and witness sport at all levels.  Good luck to all those doing DoE this weekend across the Mendips, let’s hope the weather is kind.

As I settle down this evening to watch the opening game of the Euros, and over the next month or so follow with intent the progress of England (managed by the former English teacher Roy Hodgson), I wonder if this will indeed be like the summer of 1996, or even that of 1966. With the EU referendum looming ever closer and the noise and division it is creating on both sides, I hope this sporting event in Europe will bring people and communities together – solidarity and a unitedness which is very much needed at this time. On aside; after 60 years of hope, is this going to be England’s year? Or like Leicester City, will it be Wales? Nothing is impossible.